Can My Daughter Play With Unmasked Children?


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My wife and I have a disaster on our hands! We recently moved across the country with our 8-year-old daughter for a major job opportunity for my wife. We don’t know a soul in our suburban town. And I believe this is a critical time for our daughter to learn social skills and make friends (especially after a year of isolation). The problem: The only other kids in our neighborhood don’t mask or social distance when they ask her to play. When I talked to their parents about Covid precautions, they looked at me like I had three heads and refused. Nothing is more important than our daughter’s safety, but we care about her socialization too. What should we do?

MAX

Start by dialing back the drama. There is no “disaster” here. Sure, it would be super convenient if your daughter could play safely with her neighbors. But apparently she can’t. (You asked!) Wearing masks and social distancing are still important for playmates who are too young to be vaccinated.

Now, if you can trust your daughter to stay outdoors while she’s playing in the neighborhood, there’s strong evidence that her risk of infection is very low. If you’re still uncomfortable, though, venture beyond your neighborhood to find parks, playgroups or after-school activities that prioritize safety. Your daughter’s teacher or the parents of children in her class may be helpful in pointing you in the right direction.

Clinical trials of Covid vaccines are already underway on children as young as 6 months old. Once the results are in, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will undoubtedly make recommendations for younger kids. I know this has been a tough year for your family. But try to hang on! Things aren’t perfect, but help is on the way.

Credit…Christoph Niemann

One of our sons married his high school sweetheart after graduation. During college, he was diagnosed with cancer and died four years into their marriage. Our daughter-in-law remains very close to us. Eventually, she married again, and now she has a new baby. When I speak of her to people I don’t know well, I usually refer to her as “my daughter-in-law.” But inevitably this leads to a conversation about what happened to our son. I’d like to avoid that. But I don’t like referring to her as “my former daughter-in-law” because that sounds like they divorced. Any suggestions?

LAURA

I’m sorry for your loss. I understand not wanting to rehash the story of your son’s death to near strangers. But if referring to his widow as your “daughter-in-law” leads to uncomfortable conversations, wouldn’t the same ones crop up if you called her your “former daughter-in-law”? (I assume people want to know which of your sons she married.)

Why not exercise some poetic license here? I think you’re entitled to it. Call her a “dear family friend.” It’s the truth. And you avoid the painful subject of your son’s death as well as any implication that he was divorced from his wife.

Now that Covid restrictions are finally being lifted in my community, I find myself being subjected to an onslaught of rude questions. People claim they want to invite me to dinner or other events in their homes — but only if I’ve been vaccinated. So, they make conditional invitations, then ask about my vaccination status. I think this is a clear violation of my medical privacy. Am I wrong to be offended?

ANONYMOUS

In a word: Yes! Personal privacy rights are not absolute; they are always weighed against other values, like public health. It may be more productive, though, to focus on what’s reasonable here. As we begin to emerge from the ongoing pandemic, try to understand your friends’ attempts to safeguard you and themselves.

It’s your prerogative, of course, not to answer questions about your vaccination status. But in that case, sensible hosts will probably assume you’re not vaccinated and will suggest outdoor activities, as recommended by the C.D.C., instead of inviting you into their homes. They’re not issuing conditional invitations to be nosy or cruel. They’re just trying to check the spread of a transmissible virus.

For years, I’ve paid my friend’s entrance fee to a golf tournament that takes place on his birthday. Every year he asks: “How much do I owe you?” And I respond: “It’s your birthday gift. Happy birthday!” Yet several months later, my birthday goes unnoticed. I don’t expect a gift, but I feel slighted that I don’t even receive an acknowledgment. He knows when my birthday is. Should I stop my gifts or speak up?

GOLFER

I wouldn’t be so sure that your friend knows your birth date. Even one of my brothers’ birthdays is hard for me to remember. (It’s confusingly close to my father’s.) Some people have better recall (or try harder) than others.

Now, I also suspect that stopping your gift will bother you more than your friend. It would require suppressing a generous impulse. If the only choice here is reciprocal birthday wishes or nothing, go with nothing. (Reminding other adults about your birthday is sad.) But does a nice tradition really have to end just because your pal doesn’t have a knack for dates?


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.





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